The Ozark Area Depot Museum, housed in a historic railroad station, is dedicated to the area’s history. Photo by Marcia Schnedler
Category: Worth the Drive

Ozark Facts

Incorporated: 1850

City population: 3,542

Area: 7.93 square miles

Elevation: 397 feet

County: Franklin

City highlights include a museum, a monument and indoor mini golf

Unlike most small Arkansas communities, Ozark has substantially increased its population in the last half-century — a rise of more than a third since 1970, to 3,542 in the latest census.

That notable growth by the headquarters city of Arkansas Valley Electric Cooperative is reflected in storefronts filled with a mix of businesses, including restaurants and other leisure venues.

Dedicated in 2016, the Trail of Tears monument stands in memory of American Indians passing Ozark while being forced to move west. Photo by Marcia Schnedler

Ozark’s population is expected to skyrocket for a couple of days next month, because it lies in the path of totality for the long-awaited April 8 solar eclipse. The sky will go dark starting at 1:50 p.m. for 2 minutes and 38 seconds. Clear weather permitting, the spectacle will be ethereal.

“We are expecting thousands of people here, and we aim to give them an adventure to remember,” says Mayor Roxie Hall. “During ‘Shadow on the Square’ ( around our monumental courthouse, we’ll have live music, games, food, merchandise — and even the opportunity for an eclipse wedding. We’ll offer free solar eclipse glasses with an ‘Ozark’ branding.”

Noting that Hillbillies are the Ozark High School’s mascot, Hall says, “We take pride in what our town extends to visitors, but not just any pride. We have Hillbilly Pride. You are likely to find images of our Hillbilly in almost every Ozark business. It’s a symbol of the closeness and fellowship a small town can offer to everyone.”

Along the Arkansas River, Ozark Area Depot Museum, 103 E. River St. (, displays a potpourri of historical items. The Game of Ozark is a Monopoly-style board game locally created around 1980 with squares customized to mark local businesses and attractions.

The museum’s collections focus on family and civic life back to Ozark’s founding in 1836. A spinning wheel evokes the self-reliance of the frontier period, when not only clothes but often fabrics were homemade. A wringer washing machine recalls the era when a family’s work was never done — or at least not a woman’s part of it.

Outside the former train depot stands a stately Trail of Tears monument dedicated in 2016 in memory of the American Indians who were forcibly moved west, passing Ozark on riverboats. The words “Trail of Tears” are inscribed in both English and the Cherokee syllabary.

The old Franklin County Jail was built in 1914 with locally quarried stone. Photo by Marcia Schnedler

A block west along River Street, the onetime Franklin County Jail (, could pass for a fortress. Built in 1914 from locally quarried stone, it features a Roman-arched entry in its two-story facade. A block east of the museum, River Street Furniture and Treasures, 203 E. River St. (, is a browser’s delight.

The south edge of Ozark Courthouse Square Historic District (, listed on the National Register of Historic places in 2002, lies a block inland. Improvements in recent years have included 15 blocks of new sidewalks with red brick borders, 60 streetlights of vintage design and 24 park benches. The courthouse, one of two in Franklin County, was built in 1904 and rebuilt in 1945 after a fire.

West of downtown, a popular attraction is the municipally operated Ozark Community Center, 601 N. 29th St. (, which would be the envy of some larger cities, thanks to its array of activities. A recently installed indoor miniature golf course features whimsical trappings, including foot-high dinosaurs. Day passes are available to visitors.

Upon completion in 1931, the Arkansas River Lighted Bridge was rated as one of the nation’s most beautiful bridge structures. Courtesy of Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism

A more targeted sporting crowd is the aim of nightspot Heathen’s, downtown at 103 S. Third St. ( Its headline competition is ax-throwing. Live music adds to the action on weekend nights.

Aiming to satisfy the thirsts of locals and visitors are Arkansas Brewing Company, 201 S. First St. (, and Ox Bend Brewery, 1404 W. Commercial St. ( An extensive food menu adds to the allure of Arkansas Brewing.

Ozark’s most popular restaurant, Rivertowne BBQ, 205 S. Third St. ( offers a carnivorous lineup of brisket, pork, rib, sausage and chicken. Its website truthfully promises “generous portions.”

Heading south on Arkansas 23, drivers cross Arkansas River Lighted Bridge, rated by the American Institute of Steel Construction as one of the nation’s most beautiful bridge structures after its completion in 1931. The span is illuminated at night as a reflection of Ozark’s pride.

Turner Bend Outfitter is a 113-year-old landmark 15 miles north of Ozark. Photo by Marcia Schnedler

A half-dozen miles east of Ozark, visitors can take sips of the wine country around Altus (, on rolling terrain where Swiss and German immigrants planted vineyards in the late 19th century. Offering tastings and tours are Wiederkehr Wine Cellars, Post Familie Vineyards & Winery, Mount Bethel Winery and Chateau Aux Arc. Subterranean meals are served at the Weinkeller Restaurant, on the site where the first Wiederkehr wine cellar was dug in the late 19th century. The menu features schnitzels, wursts and other hearty Middle European dishes.

Arkansas 23, known as The Pig Trail, winds north from Ozark skirting the Mulberry River, favored for canoeing, kayaking and rafting. At one bridge, Turner Bend Outfitter ( is a 113-year-old landmark. It sells and rents outdoor gear and Pig Trail T-shirts along with food and beverages in a scenic riverside setting just 15 miles north of Ozark; cabins and campsites are also available.